Park district board voted for uncontrolled spending

Executive Director Elaine Ott-Rocheford was correct when she stated in the Dec. 6 Beachcomber the park district’s hands were totally tied (“Vashon Park District adjusts its fiscal policy). However, the district’s financial condition has nothing to do with a financial plan approved two years ago and everything to do with the 39 percent increase in wages for existing employees approved by the park district board six months ago. In my resignation letter to the board, I warned the $276,000 increase in wages would have dire consequences since it represents nearly 20 percent of the total park district budget.

The board’s solution is to remove the spending controls.

It is sad to see this board learned nothing from the previous board, which proceeded with the financial disaster of the VES fields, despite the fact that property values were falling and a recession was beginning. With a new recession expected to happen in the not-too-distant future and King County property values falling 11 percent in only six months (Seattle Times front page Dec. 7), this board voted for uncontrolled spending.

So how is the park district going to pay for much higher wages and take care of deferred maintenance? Look to the levy next year. If the levy is reset to $0.50/$1,000 of property value, it will enjoy the largest single increase in revenues in its 30+ year history. That said, look for the board to go for the gusto and ask for $0.60.

And this all happens at a time when teachers have to settle for 10 percent raises and most islanders receive single-digit income increases.

— Scott Harvey

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